U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Russia has the capacity to take aggressive action against Ukraine if it so chooses.
He announced this at a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on May 6, 2021, according to an UNIAN correspondent.
"Russia has pulled back some forces, but significant forces remain at Ukraine's border. It has pulled back some equipment, but significant equipment remains near Ukraine's border. And so Russia has the capacity on fairly short notice to take aggressive action if it so chooses, and so we are watching this very, very carefully," he said.
He praised the way Ukraine had been handling Russia's provocative actions.
"I must tell you that I admire the restraint that Ukraine has shown in the face of these provocative actions, in the face of this aggression," he said. "Ukrainians continue to lose their lives on a regular basis, and yet the restraint is very, very real and very much appreciated. Ukraine has not taken to the provocations by Russia."
According to him, the United States, many allies and partners are focused on such issues.
"This is the subject of extensive discussion at the most recent NATO meetings, and as well at the meetings of the G7 just in the last two days. In turn, we are, as I said, actively looking at strengthening even further our security cooperation and our security assistance to Ukraine. Nothing to announce today, but it's something that we're very actively looking at," he said.
The sides also discussed the Minsk negotiation process and diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. "We also discussed the diplomacy, the Minsk process and commitments that were made, and we'll always continue to explore ways to see if there are opportunities to help advance the diplomacy. But there again, Russia continues to be the recalcitrant party in not engaging in good faith in trying to resolve the – both Crimea, of course, and the Donbas, and restoring what is rightfully Ukraine's, which is its border and its territorial integrity and sovereignty over its – over all of Ukraine," he said.
Russian troops along Ukraine borders, in occupied Crimea: Background
- Under the guise of preparations for military drills, Russia in March 2021 pulled dozens of battalion tactical groups, military hardware, as well as Su-25SMZ fighter jets, and warships of the Caspian navy flotilla into occupied Crimea and to the areas in close proximity to the borders with Ukraine.
- The United States and many other Western countries, the European Union, NATO expressed their support to Ukraine after the Russian Federation's provocative actions.
- The U.S. European Command raised its alert status to the highest level after fighting had resumed between Russia-led forces and Ukrainian troops in Donetsk region. The Pentagon said they were concerned over the escalation in eastern Ukraine.
- On April 22, 2021, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said it had been decided to complete a "snap check" on Russian troops' preparedness in the Western and Southern military districts of the Russian Federation near the borders of Ukraine, since "all the goals set have been achieved."